isrtrip1

Israel Trip Report

7th to 14th December 1995

A full version of this report, with logistics and site gen plus 15 maps, is available direct from the authors, or via the FBRIS (Steve Whitehouse) and DBTRS (Dutch Birding) reports services.

The idea behind this trip was, simply, to see as many of the desert and winter specialities of Israel in a week as possible. Although early December is obviously not good for passage migrants, the quantity and quality of wintering birds provided more than adequate compensation, and it has the advantage of being about the cheapest time-of-year for flights and car hire.

It has to be said that we did cover a lot of ground in a short space of time. The final trip total was 3250km. However, it was well worth it for a final bird species list of 178, of which about 40 were seen only north of the Dead Sea.

The team consisted of Jon King, Richard Bradbury, Bea Arroyo & Peter Colston (plus, of course, Pato Jon and Merlin the Dragon). We were fortunate to be invited to stay with Hadoram Shirihai in Eilat. Although we did not avail ourselves of his leading skills, Hadoram is willing to guide anyone, whether for several days anywhere in the country, or just for an hour or two to show people specific species e.g. the wintering Striated Scops Owl (at a site that is not publicised due to danger of disturba nce). He can be contacted by phone/fax on 00-972-7-379326. Charter flights were booked through Thomas Cook at 99 UK Pounds each including tax and we booked a car by telephone through WildWings (tel. 0117-984-8040), which cost us 133 UK Pounds.

Itinerary

7th Flew from Gatwick North at 12:30 arrived Ovda (at 19:30 local time) stayed overnight in Eilat.

8th Eilat - north beach (dawn) to north fields; K19 acacias (midday); K33; Yotvata; Eilat pumping station [dusk).

9th Eilat; Amram's Pillars; K33; Dead Sea - Arad Turn; Masada (midday); Nahal Hever; Ein Gedi Field school Iddan (dusk); Eilat.

10th Eilat; Nizzana (dawn); Urim; Be'er Sheva sewage works (dusk); Eilat.

11th Eilat - north beach to north fields; Yotvata; K33 (midday); Amram's Pillars; Eilat (Striated Scops site); Wadi Mappalin; south fields to north beach (dusk); Eilat.

12th Eilat; K46; Argaman site (just after dawn); Rehov Res.; Bet She'an; Sea of Galilee (midday); Southern Hula; Tel Hai youth hostel (Quiryat Shmona).

13th Hai; Northern Hula (from dawn);Mt. Hermon (Neveh Ativ);Beit She'an (dusk); Jerusalem (dinner); Ein Gedi Field School; Eilat.

14th Eilat - south fields; Amram's Pillars; K20 kibbutz and reservoirs; Eilat north fields; Ein Netafim; Eilat pumping station (dusk); flew from Ovda (20:00 local time); arrived Gatwick (23:45 local).

Systematic List

All records were seen by all team members, except where observers initials appear by the record. Site names are somewhat simplified and should be cross-referenced to the site maps/notes. Taxonomy follows BWP except for large gulls, which follows 'The Bird of Israel' (Shirihai 1996).

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Three on the freshwater pool at Dead Sea Works on 9th, one at Beer Sheva on 10th, 2 in the Hula on 13th, and two at Sea of Galilee on 12th.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Three at Sea of Galilee on 12th, and at least one off North Beach on 14th.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Five off Aqaba seen from North Beach on evening of 11th, and five on the Sea of Galilee on 12th.

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Many (c.50) at Eilat Saltponds and North Beach on 8th and smaller numbers there on 14th, but none seen on 11th. Three at Dead Sea Works on 9th. In the north, small numbers seen at Bet She'an, and c.15 at Sea of Galilee, both on 12th. In the evening of 12th. In the evening of 12th, a huge tree roost in the southern Hula was estimated at 4000+ birds. On 13th, large flocks leaving the roost overflew the northern Hula going north at dawn, and by midday some flocks were already returning south.

Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus
Near Kinneret on the south-west corner of the Sea of Galilee, c.10 individuals with Cormorants on 12th, the first one being seen flying over the road about 0.5km before the Kinneret turning! Largely first-winters, but at least two adults also seen.

White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus
Several large flocks at Bet She'an on the morning of 12th (total > 500 birds). In the Hula, some large flocks at the south on 12th (c. 300 birds) and small numbers in the north on 13th (c. 100 birds in total).

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
One at North Beach on 8th. About 30 at Dead Sea Works on 9th. About 10 around cows at c.600m a.m.s.l. on Hermon on 13th. Very common at Beer Sheva, Rehov, Bet She'an and the Hula, and 1-2 seen regularly along the road in the Jordan Valley. Estimated 50 at Beer Sheva at dusk on 10th, 100 at Rehov and 50 at southern Hula on 12th, and c.20 in northern Hula on 13th.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Five at the Dead Sea Works on 9th. Six at Eilat North Beach on 11th, and again on 14th. Common at Bet She'an and Hula, although in much smaller numbers than Great White Egret - no counts made, but c.30 in southern Hula on 12th.

Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis
Recorded regularly at Eilat North Beach: two on 8th, two in the morning and one on evening of 11th, and two on 14th. All were of the white schistacea race.

Great White Egret Egretta alba
One seen at Dead Sea Works on 9th. Impressively abundant in northern Israel, with 200+ at Rehov and 300+ in the southern Hula on 12th. Not counted at Bet She'an on 12th, but c.100 seen there on 13th.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
c.30 at Eilat SP on 8th, with c.15 there on 11th. One at Dead Sea Works on 9th. Very common at Bet She'an and Hula on 12-13th, but no counts.

Black Stork Ciconia nigra
On 12th, 2 at Rehov, 5 at Bet She'an and 50+ in the southern Hula. About 10 in ones and twos in the northern Hula on 13th.

White Stork Ciconia ciconia
About 50 at Bet She'an and 20 in the southern Hula on 12th, with about 5 singles in the Hula on 13th and 3 at Bet She'an that evening.

Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
In the Hula Valley one distant flock of about 10 birds on 12th, with a single adult and one first-winter flying very close to us, then one adult in flight at Bet She'an on 13th.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
A flock of 27 at the ponds at Eilat K20 on 14th, consisting of three juveniles, two adults and the remainder immatures.

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Nine at Bet She'an on 13th, and 5 at Eilat K20 on 14th.

Wigeon Anas penelope
Five in southern Hula on 12th, 5 at Bet She'an on 13th, and 3 at Eilat K20 on 14th.

Gadwall Anas strepera
A flock of 20 on the freshwater pool at Dead Sea Works on 9th and 3 at Hula on 12th.

Teal Anas crecca
One female North Beach on 8th, and one at K20 on 14th. Ten at the Beer Sheva sewage ponds on 10th. One at Bet She'an on 12th, and several there on 13th. Common in the Hula Valley, with 150 on 12th, present but not counted on 13th.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Two at Dead Sea Works and a flock of c. 40 on the Dead Sea on 9th. Five on Sea of Galilee on 12th, and small flocks on Bet She'an on 12th and 13th. Several hundreds in the southern Hula on 12th, and 2000+ in the northern Hula on 13th, including large flocflocks feeding on stubble fields. About 35 at Eilat K20 on 14th.

Pintail Anas acuta
Single males in the Hula on 12th, at Bet She'an on 13th, and at Eilat K20 on 14th.

Shoveler Anas clypeata
c.20 at Bet She'an and an impressive flock of 400+ in the Hula on 12th. A male at Eilat K20 on 14th.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris
Six in the southern Hula with Teal on 12th afforded excellent views.

Pochard Aythya ferina
Five (two males, three females) at Hula on 12th.

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
About 200 on the Sea of Galilee (SW corner) on 12th.

Black Kite Milvus migrans migrans
Abundant in the NW Negev, with e.g. > 100 birds near Urim on 10th, and in the Jordan Valley from Bet She'an northwards, with > 200 in the Hula Valley on 12-13th.

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
One second-winter over the northern Hula on 13th was watched being mobbed by one Steppe, one Spotted and two Imperial Eagles, and later circled with a Griffon!

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Two in the mountains high above Nahal Hever, Ein Gedi on 9th, and one over the northern Hula on 13th.

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Two in the Eilat South Fields area on 8th, and another there on 11th. One at Rehov and an estimated 15 in the southern Hula on 12th, of which two were adult males, with a similar number of sightings in the northern Hula on 13th (only one adult male). Singles at Bet She'an on 12th and 13th.

Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
Two males, one adult female and one juvenile at Urim on 10th. Rather common in the northern Hula, with at least 10 sightings of females and first-winters on 13th, but no males.

Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
One first-winter male at Yotvata on 8th, and one juvenile female near Masada on 9th. About 10 females/juveniles in the Nizzana-Urim-Beer Sheva areas on 10th. One female at Bet She'an on 12th. In the Hula, one adult female on 12th, and about 15 sightings oon 13th, all of female/first-winter birds, often with ringtail Hen Harriers for direct comparison.

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
One female and one male at Eilat North Fields on 8th, and one of each sex at Urim on 10th. On 11th, one male Yotvata, a female at K33 and a male sitting on the South Fields dung heap. Two in the Hula on 12th, and one there the next day.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
There was considerable plumage variation among all of the Common Buzzards seen (even more so than in northern Europe), and all individuals appeared to be attributeable to the Middle Eastern race menetriesi. At Eilat, 3-4 on 8th. One at Nizzana Fort and another at Urim on 10th. One at the Argaman K46 stop on 12th (BA). At least five in the northern Hula on 13th.

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
Only one seen around Eilat, but seemed common elsewhere. One by the road near Sappir, and one showing very well on pylons at Dead Sea Works, both on 9th. On 10th, 2-3 seen at Nizzana, including superb views of a first-winter catching and eating a jerboa, and then 4-5 at Urim perched on pylons and in flight. Common in the Jordan Valley, with c.15 sightings between Argaman and the Hula on 12th, and c.10 in the northern Hula on 13th. Finally, one at Eilat K20 on 14th.

Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina
Two in the northern Hula on 13th: an adult seen very well perched and later circling with first-winter Spotted Eagle, and a second-winter-type seen in flight nearby. One high north over Eilat South Fields on 14th (PC).

Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
Two on 10th, with stunning perched and flight views down to 50m of a first-winter at Nizzana Fort, and an adult in flight at Urim. On 12th, two adults at Bet She'an, and at least 10 individuals (largely first-winters) in the southern Hula, with many affording superb perched and flight views. About 5-6 birds in the northern Hula on 13th.

Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
One adult at Urim on 10th. One adult watched well with other eagles in the northern Hula on 13th. Two adult eagles, presumably of this species, seen over Amram's Pillars on 14th.

Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca
At least five at Urim on 10th, with 2 adults, 2-3 first-winters and 1-2 subadults, including up to three together (with two Goldens!), and extremely close views of one adult and one first-winter. One adult and one 2nd/3rd year in the northern Hula on 13th.

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Two adults at Urim on 10th included one circling at only 75m over the car. One adult in the northern Hula on 13th.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
One pale phase bird near the road at Bet She'an on 12th.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus
One at Bet She'an on 12th.

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
One male at Masada on 9th (BA, JK).

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Seen regularly in small numbers on every day and at every main site visited. Many (all?) individuals - particularly those from the Dead Sea southwards - resembled the smaller, darker rupicolaeformis race.

Saker Falco cherrug
Two at northern Hula on 13th.

Peregrine Falco peregrinus
Three adults of the race brookei. One perched on pylons at Urim on 10th. Two at Hula on 13th, one of which watched hunting for several minutes making unsuccessful dives at Collared Doves.

Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides
Superb views of a first-year male at Yotvata on 8th.

Chukar Alectoris chukar
Seen in coveys in various localities in the Negev on 10th, including by the roadside in early morning. One covey of about 30 at Argaman K46 site on 12th.

Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi
One pair at Eilat Pumping Station on evening of 8th. About 15 in pairs and small coveys at Nizzana Fort on 10th. Three at Amram's Pillars on 11th, and a pair there on 14th.

Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus
One female flushed in the southern Hula on 12th, and a total of four pairs, all very confiding, seen in the northern Hula on 13th.

Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Heard sharming on two occasions at Bet She'an on the evening of 13th.

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
One at Dead Sea Works on 9th. Small numbers at Bet She'an, and very common at Hula on 12th-13th.

Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio
One or possibly two individuals heard at Bet She'an on the evening of 13th.

Coot Fulica atra
Three at Dead Sea Works on 9th. Common at Bet She'an, Sea of Galilee and Hula on 12th-13th (not counted).

Crane Grus grus
A flock of 140 circling in the Urim area on 10th. Many thousands in the Hula: on afternonn of 12th, small numbers seen and heard, and then a huge roost located in the central eastern side of the valley, where some 5000+ birds seen. On 13th, an estimated 7000-8000 seen in feeding flocks of varying sizes in the northern Hula. One flock of c.3000 birds watched being periodically spooked by a confused-looking Jackal.

Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata
Stunning views of one watched for over 30 mins at Nahal Nizzana on 10th (subspecies macquenii).

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Four in Eilat North Beach channel on 8th. About 20 at Beer Sheva sewage ponds on 10th. Ten in the southern Hula on 12th. Up to 40 at fishponds at Bet She'an on evening of 13th. About 10 at Eilat K20 ponds on 14th.

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
An estimated 45 in the southern Hula on 12th, and 10 at Bet She'an on 13th.

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Small numbers present around Eilat North Beach and South Fields areas on all visits (1-5 birds). A flock of 4 at Bet She'an on 13th. Three at Eilat K20 ponds on 14th.

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Two on North Beach on 11th. About 5 at Eilat K20 ponds on 14th.

Spur-winged Plover Hoplopterus spinosus
Two on a field near Ze'elim on 10th, and later that day 252 in a roost at Beer Sheva sewage ponds. On 12th-13th, found to be very common in the Jordan Valley, with small flocks from the Argaman K46 stop northwards; common at Bet She'an, and particularly abundant in the Hula, with tens of pairs and small groups on 13th.

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Common in flocks of 10-150 birds in the Urim area on 10th, totalling c. 500 birds. Common in fairly large flocks in the Jordan Valley (12th-13th), particularly between the Dead and Galilee Seas. Several large flocks around Bet She'an, but rather scarce in the Hula.

Little Stint Calidris minuta
About five in Eilat North Beach channel on 8th, one there on 11th, and c.15 at Eilat K20 ponds on 14th.

Dunlin Calidris alpina
One in Eilat North Beach channel on 8th. A total of c.20 at Bet She'an on 13th. About 12 at Eilat K20 ponds on 14th.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax
31 at Beer Sheva sewage ponds on 10th. One in southern Hula on 12th, and one in the northern Hula on 13th. At least 30 at Bet She'an on 13th.

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
A flock of 3 high over fields near Beer Sheva sewage ponds on 10th. On 13th, singles in the Hula and at Bet She'an.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
One flock of 35 birds in the southern Hula on 12th.

Curlew Numenius arquata
One heard by RB in the northern Hula on 13th.

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Two at Dead Sea Works on 9th.

Redshank Tringa totanus
Common in small numbers (5-15 birds) around Eilat North Beach and Saltponds on all visits, and at K20 on 14th. Two at Dead Sea Works on 9th (BA). Common as singles or small groups (2-4 birds) at Bet She'an and the Hula on 12th-13th.

Greenshank Tringa nebularia
One flock of 20 at Bet She'an on 13th.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Two on fishponds in the southern Hula on 12th, and one in northern Hula on 13th. One at Bet She'an on 12th, and 2-3 heard there on 13th.

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
At least one, probably 2-3, at Bet She'an on 13th.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
One at Eilat Saltponds on 8th. One at Beer Sheva on 10th. Three at Hula on 12th. Present, but uncounted, in small numbers at Bet She'an on 13th.

White-eyed Gull Larus leucophthalmus
Seen off Eilat North Beach on all visits, with birds loafing on the rafts and bouys all day, but in the afternoons coming close inshore. Two first-winters and one second-winter on 8th, 3-4 on morning of 11th with c.12 there that evening, and 6-7 at midday on 14th, including two first-winters and one second-winter very close in to the beach.

Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus
One 2nd winter at Eilat North Beach and adjacent saltponds on 8th and 11th (am and pm). A combined total of c.20 birds at Bet She'an on 12th-13th, largely adults, with a few second-winters and 1-2 first- winters.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Abundant at Eilat North Beach and Saltponds, Bet She'an area, Sea of Galilee and Hula Valley, with some flocks seen flying along the Arava and Jordan Valleys. Counts on 12th were of c.5000 at Rehov Res., 5000+ at Bet She'an and 300 on Sea of Galilee.

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei
Five adults and two first-winters at the Kinneret stop on the Sea of Galilee on 12th.

Common Gull Larus canus
One adult at Eilat North Beach on 8th showed the darker mantle of subspecies heinei.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans
First- and second-winters seen regularly on visits to Eilat North Beach and saltponds, with two on 8th, one on 11th and three on 14th. One first-winter at Rehov on 12th.

Armenian Gull Larus armenicus
Approx. 5 first-winters on all visits to Eilat North Beach and saltponds area. Abundant in the Jordan Valley on 12th-13th: about 100 at Rehov, > 500 at Bet She'an, 50+ at Sea of Galilee, and c.200 at Hula, plus small flocks in flight elsewhere. All age groups seen in the Jordan Valley, although adults predominated. A small but significant proportion of Armenian Gulls showed pale irides (>5%), and this was noted across ages; the bill band was consistent noted in all birds, although it was rather smudgy in a few birds showed pale irides (>5%), and this was noted across ages; the bill band was consistent noted in all birds, although it was rather smudgy in a few birds (<1%).

Siberian (Heuglin's) Gull Larus heuglini
At least two first-winters at Eilat saltponds on 8th, and at least one there with a second-winter on 11th.

Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
1-3 birds seen on each visit to Eilat North Beach.

Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis
One first-winter at Eilat North Beach early morning on 11th only.

Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii
Seen at the drinking trough at Eilat Pumping Station at dusk (arriving between 1655-1710) on 8th and 14th, when there were 9 and 22 birds respectively.

Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus
Two females on 8th flushed several times and seen at short range in Acacia scrub east of Eilat K19.

Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus
Heard almost continuously at Nahal Nizzana on 10th, and one flock of 7 seen extremely well in flight there.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
Superb views of three in flight and briefly on the ground on our arrival at Nahal Nizzana on 10th, and therefter heard frequently during our two-hour stay in this area.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata
One of the most stunning spectacles of the trip was to watch a flock of about 2000 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse for some 15 minutes whirling around over fields in the Urim area on 10th, before eventually flying low over us. Incredibly, a larger second flock of ssome 2500 appeared shortly behind the first one, and did the same 'fly-by'!

Rock Dove Columba livia
Very common as feral pigeons in almost all areas.

Stock Dove Columba oenas
Seen only in the northern Hula, where large flocks present on 13th (total c.1500 birds).

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Extremely abundant in all areas and all habitats.

Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
As catholic in habitat choice as Collared Dove, but always in smaller numbers.

Namaqua Dove Oena capensis
Ten around the greenhouses at Eilat K20 on 14th, with three adult males and the remainder female-types.

Ring-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri
One seen and heard in flight over the Hula reserve on 12th.

Barn Owl Tyto alba
One over the main 90 road in the Jordan Valley north of Jericho.

Striated Scops Owl Otus brucei
The wintering bird at Eilat watched for an hour in the early afternoon on 11th.

Eagle Owl Bubo bubo
One seen - very well by BA and more briefly by RB and JK - at Iddan at dusk on 9th, and one heard calling near the Eilat Pumping station at dusk on 14th.

Little Owl Athene noctua
Two individuals seen extremely well by day, one at the roadside at Nizzana on 10th, and one at the Argaman K46 site on 12th. On range, these should have been of the glaux and lilith subspecies respectively (BWP IV), although no obvious plumage differences were evident in the field, both appearing paler and much browner than British birds (nominate subsp.).

[Hume's Tawny Owl Strix butleri
An owl seen in the headlights of the car on 13th over the main 90 road c.15-20 km south of Bet She'an was considered to be this species by PC who has extensive prior experience of Hume's Tawny Owl , but views were not "tickable".]

Little Swift Apus affinis
Surprisingly only one seen, near Ammi'ad just north of the Sea of Galilee on 12th.

White-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
At least four individuals around the date plantation near the Eilat ringing station on 8th, and at least two in the North Beach area on 14th. On 12th and 13th, a small number of individuals (1-3) seen at Bet She'an, 1-2 seen along the coast of the Sea of Galilee near Tiberias, and abundant in the Hula (>10 sightings/hour).

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Recorded only from Bet She'an and the Hula, with 1-2 birds heard on each visit to the former, and a total of c.10 birds seen and heard at the latter.

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
On all visits 2-3 at Eilat North Beach. On 12th-13th, regular in small numbers at Bet She'an, and even commoner at Hula.

Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Regular in groups of 1-3 at various locations in the lower Arava (Eilat, Yotvata, K33) on 8th, 11th and 14th, and especially around the Ringing Station. Also one seen briefly at Masada on 9th.

Hoopoe Upupa epops
One at Beer Sheva sewage ponds on 10th. Two at the K46 Argaman stop on 12th, and several in the southern Hula later that day.

Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus
One male and one female seen very well for protracted periods on Hermon on 13th, the former drumming on a dead tree, and the female investigating holes in a telegraph post.

Bar-tailed Desert Lark Ammomanes cincturus
Seen only at Eilat K33: 2 birds briefly on 9th, and one single very close to the car plus 3-4 together watched for half-an-hour on 11th.

Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
Seen very well at Eilat K33 on 8th and 9th, when 3-4 birds present on each date. One extremely approachable bird in the Masada car park on 9th. At least 10 in the Nizzana Fort Area on 10th. Two in Wadi Mapalim and one at Amram's Pillars on 11th. About 4 at Argaman K46 stop on 12th. One in En Netafim on 14th.

Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes
Seen only at Eilat K33 - one individual on 9th, and three together on 11th. The latter birds were watched feeding and preening for at least 30 minutes down to 25m, when sex differences in size and plumage were evident (two males, one female).

Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
Heard but not seen at Nahal Nizzana on 10th.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Not systematically recorded, but common in small numbers at many sites. Several birds always present around the pumping station at K33.

Skylark Alauda arvensis
Abundant in the NW Negev and the Jordan Valley, with large flocks seen in many places on 10th, 12th and 13th.

Pale Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula
At least 30 along the channel from Eilat North Beach to South Fields on 8th, and several around both the South and North Fields dung heaps that day. Ones and twos also seen at the South Fields dung heap on 11th and 14th. One at K33 on 11th. Small numbers at various sites along the Dead Sea coast on 9th, with at least 10 at Dead Sea Works. One over Hula Reserve on 12th.

Swallow Hirundo rustica
About five along North Beach channel on morning of 8th. Small flocks totalling c.10 birds flying south down the Jordan Valley north of Argaman on 12th. Several dozen at each of Bet She'an and the Hula on 12th-13th.

Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
One heard by JK and PC flying north over K33 on 11th.

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
One briefly at the Eilat South Fields dung heap on 14th (PC and BA), suggested by PC to be of the pale eastern subspecies griseus.

Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis
Many heard, and 2-3 seen extremely well, at the Argaman K46 site on 12th.

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
One on South Fields dung heap on 8th, and 3-4 there on 11th. In the NW Negev on 10th, several in the Urim area, and at least 10 in fields adjacent to the Beer Sheva sewage ponds. Several at Argaman K46 on 12th, 1-2 at Bet She'an, and several in the the southern Hula later the same day. c.10 in the northern Hula on 13th.

Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
Easily the commonest pipit recorded, with ones and twos heard at most sites, even desert areas such as Dead Sea and K33, but with notable concentrations in greener areas. A regular flock at the Eilat South Fields dung heap provided superb views, with 6+ on 8th and about 10 on 14th.

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta
At least 10 on 8th between Eilat North Beach and the South Fields dung heap, mainly along the channel. Ones and twos seen regularly around the dung heap on all visits. One at Beer Sheva on 10th. Common in the Jordan Valley, with several at Bet She'an on 12th-13th, and 20+ on same dates in the Hula. At least those in the Hula appeared to be coutelli.

Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus (rubescens) japonicus
One seen briefly but heard well at the South Fields dung heap on 8th. One heard over South Fields on 11th. Two at the South Fields dung heap on 14th, one of which watched well on-and-off for an hour.

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
One first-year female well-watched in southern Hula on 12th, calling frequently.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
4-5 in the southern Hula on 12th, and 2-3 in the northern Hula on 13th.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Very common and widely distributed, with many hundreds of individuals seen in total. Seen in small numbers at all sites, even in desert areas such as K33, and along all roadsides, including in the Negev. All birds appeared to be of nominate subspecies.

Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos
Found in good numbers at virtually every site visited, occupying an amazing array of habitats, including near-treeless wadis around Eilat, reedbeds at Hula and Bet She'an, and mixed woodland at 1000m a.m.s.l. on Mount Hermon.

Dunnock Prunella modularis
One in the southern Hula on 12th.

Robin Erithacus rubecula
Singles at En Gedi on 9th, and Yotvata on 11th. Common in the southern Hula on 12th, and one on Hermon on 13th.

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Very common winterer, with well over 100 individuals seen in total. Although commonest in wetter areas such as Hula, Bet She'an and Eilat North Beach area, also found in poorly-vegetated desert areas such as K33, Dead Sea Works and Masada. Birds identified identified to subspecies were all of the red-spotted, nominate subspecies.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Common in small numbers around Eilat North Beach and South Fields area on all visits, with 3-5 birds always present at the dung heap. Ones and twos recorded at many sites: Yotvata, K33, Nizzana Fort, Argaman K46, En Gedi, Beer Sheva. All birds checked were of the nominate subspecies.

Blackstart Cercomela melanura
Common in all desert and semi-desert areas, often being the only regular species alongside tracks in the Negev. Very common in wadis and scrub around Eilat, at Yotvata and the Dead Sea (where extremely approachable at the Masada car park). Strangely absent from Eilat K33. Clearly scarcer in the north, seen only as far as Argaman K46 site (on 12th), and not at all at Bet She'an or Hula.

Stonechat Saxicola torquata
Small numbers present at nearly every site visited. At least 10 individuals regularly recorded around the Eilat North Beach to South Fields area, with at least 2-3 always at the dung heap. The majority of birds were attributed to the rubicola subspecies , but a small number showed characters of armenica.

Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
Two in the wadi at Nahal Nizzana on 10th. One at Eilat K33 on 11th (BA). Superb views of one, at times fighting with Long-billed Pipit, at Argaman K46 on 12th.

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Seen at Eilat K33 on all visits: one adult male and one first-year male on 8th, two males on 9th, one male on 11th.

Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii
One first-year male seen well, and a female seen briefly, at the Argaman K46 site on 12th. The Nizzana Fort site, although worked thoroughly on 10th, produced none.

Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens
Recorded on each visit to K33 (1-3 birds), plus several in the Nizzana area on 10th, and one at the Argaman K46 site on 12th. Many seen by roadsides in the Arava.

Hooded Wheatear Oenanthe monacha
Two males in area of Eilat North Fields on 8th. One male and one female at K33 on 9th. One male at K33 on 11th.

White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga
1-2 at Eilat Pumping Station on evening of 8th. One first-winter at Nahal Hever on 9th. Two adults and one first-winter at Yotvata K50 on 11th. 1-2 adults seen on each visit to Amram's Pillars. Seen at Wadi Mapalim (2 on 11th) and En Netafim (1 on 14th). Also several seen by roadsides in the Arava and Negev.

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
Two females seen very well at the Argaman K46 site on 12th.

Blackbird Turdus merula
Found only in the extreme north, with 6-7 in the Hula on 12th and 13th, 2 birds on Hermon on 13th.

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Commonly heard and occasionally seen in the Hula and Bet She'an on 12th-13th.

Graceful Warbler Prinia gracilis
Seen in small numbers at virtually all sites throughout the country, seen every day. Clearly preferred areas with reasonable amounts of vegetation, as not seen in the barest desert wadis (cf. Scrub Warbler). Particularly common around the North Beach channel and Ringing station at Eilat.

Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta
At least 3 extremely confiding birds seen in Wadi Mapalim on 11th (including one in song), and one pair also seen very well about 1km before Amram's Pillars on 14th.

Fan-tailed Warbler Cisticola juncidis
Seen only at the Argaman K46 site, where one was in rather odd boulder habitat on 12th, but also heard occasionally in the Hula on 12-13th.

Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon
Recorded at Bet She'an on evening of 13th: one seen well by PC, another seen briefly by JK, and 1-2 singing birds heard.

Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus
About 5 birds calling and giving crippling views at Bet She'an on evening of 13th.

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata
At least 3-4 in Nahal Nizzana on 10th.

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Common in small numbers at many sites from the Dead Sea southwards. Recorded in all visits to North Beach/Ringing Station/South Fields area, Yotvata and K33. Also many at all sites along the Dead Sea coast on 9th, with e.g. 10 in Nahal Hever.

Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax
One at Nahal Hever, Ein Gedi on 9th (RB). An amazing concentration in Wadi Mapalim, Eilat, on 11th, where at least 6-7 birds were seen very well and heard calling.

Desert Warbler Sylvia nana
Recorded on two out of three visits to Eilat K33, but not elsewhere: 2-3 on 9th and one on 11th. Noted 'following' Desert Wheatear and Desert Lark.

Arabian Warbler Sylvia leucomelaena
Protracted close views of two, a presumed pair, at K50 near Yotvata on 11th.

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
One calling bird of the nominate subspecies at Yotvata on 8th and another on 11th. A concentration of nominate race birds at the freshwater pool at Dead Sea works on 9th, where c.50 seen. A couple of abientinus types and one nominate near Beer Sheva and a nominate bird at Nizzana Fort on 10th. One collybita at Wadi Mapalim on 11th. Good views of one abientinus-type at Argaman K46 on 12th, and 10+ (a mix of abientinus and collybita) seen and heard at Bet She'an and the Hula on 12th-13th. One heard at the Hula Reserve on 12th sounded very like tristis heard by JK earlier in '95. Three collybita at Hula on 13th.

Arabian Babbler Turdoides squamiceps
Flocks of 5-7 birds recorded at Yotvata and Eilat Pumping Station on 8th, at Yotvata on 11th and 3-4 at South Fields on 14th. One at South Fields dung heap on 11th.

Sombre Tit Parus lugubris
Many birds, at least 10, of the anatoliae subspecies, seen and heard continuously at Hermon on 13th.

Great Tit Parus major
Heard singing in the northern Hula on 13th, and then found in abundance on Hermon later that day (10+ birds).

Rock Nuthatch Sitta neumayer
On 13th, heard in two distinct areas on Hermon, and one pair seen very well.

Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus
Many heard but seen only briefly at Hula on 12th, and a few heard and one seen very well (RB) at Bet She'an on 13th.

Palestine Sunbird Nectarinia osea
Seen on all dates except 12th-13th. Common in small groups (2-4 birds) in Acacia-dominated habitat at many sites in the Negev e.g. Eilat, Yotvata, Wadi Mapalim, Nizzana. Often seeing flying over the road in the Arava.

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
Singles seen at all open sites (i.e. not wadis) and very regularly on roadside wires and bushes (>10 birds/day). All birds - apart from those of Hula and Galilee - appeared to be intermediate in characteristics between subspecies elegans and aucheri (as discussed in BWP VII). The birds of the north-east, with notably darker grey underparts, were of the endemic theresae subspecies.

Jay Garrulus glandarius
Some 3-4 birds of the strikingly-plumaged atricapillus subspecies seen on Hermon on 13th. The call was noted to be very similar to British birds.

Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Recorded only in the Hula Valley, where very large roosting flocks were present on the afternoon of 12th, totalling 400+, and smaller flocks seen in the northern Hula the next morning, totalling c.100 birds. All these birds showed the distinct white half-collar of the soemeringii subspecies, to which the Israeli population is attributeable (BWP VIII).

House Crow Corvus splendens
Common in the immediate vicinity of the North Beach, with about 10 there on 8th and 11th, and 20+ on 14th.

Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix
Encountered only in the non-desert west and north of Israel, where abundant in the NW Negev on 10th, and in the Jordan Valley north of the Dead Sea on 12th-13th.

Fan-tailed Raven Corvus rhipidurus
At least 6 birds seen in the Masada area of the Dead Sea on 9th.

Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
Regular in small numbers throughout the southern half of the country. 2-3 seen on each visit to K33 and Yotvata on 8th, 9th and 11th. Common in the northern Arava and Dead Sea areas on 9th, with one flock of c.70 near Sappir. Scarcer, but still regular in small numbers, in the NW Negev on 10th. A pair at Amram's Pillars on 14th.

Tristram's Grackle Onychognathus tristramii
On 9th, at least 10 seen at the Hotel Nirvana complex on the south-west Dead Sea, and over 100 seen around the car park at Masada, where extremely approachable and came to food scraps. At least 12 in more natural surroundings at En Netafim on 14th.

Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Abundant in the west and north. At least 5000 at Urim on 10th. Common in the Jordan Valley from north of the Dead Sea, 12th-13th, with a roost of many hundreds in Hula.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Seen at Eilat North Beach, where 3-6 birds on 11th and 14th (subsp. indicus). In northern Israel (subsp. biblicus) small flocks at Bet She'an on 12th and at Hula and Hermon on 13th, and at Sea of Galilee on 12th, where a flock of c.10 was present.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Abundant, usually in flocks of 10-20 birds, in a wide range of habitats from urban to desert. Recorded at almost all sites from Eilat to the Hula.

Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus
At least 2 males and 3 females seen extremely well in a flock of Spanish Sparrows at Dead Sea Works on 9th.

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Common in the NW Negev (10th) and Jordan Valley (12th-13th), with notable concentrations in the Hula on 12th-13th, where 30+ seen. One at Eilat South Fields dung heap on 14th.

Serin Serinus serinus
Approx. 3-4 present on Hermon on 13th.

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Seen commonly in small flocks in the NW Negev on 10th and in the Jordan Valley on 12th-13th. Five at Eilat North Fields on 14th. All birds seen were of the strikingly yellow race chlorotica.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
One flock heard near Urim on 10th. A small flock heard and seen at Argaman K46, and heard at Bet She'an, both on 12th. Seen in the Hula on 12th & 13th.

Siskin Carduelis spinus
Two heard at Hermon on 13th.

Linnet Carduelis cannabina
A small flock at the Argaman K46 site on 12th. Illustrated right

Desert Finch Rhodospiza obsoleta
Flocks of 5-10 at various places around Eilat K33 on all three visits, notably at a dripping tap near the pumping station. Recorded at Masada on 9th (RB). A flock of c.20 at Nizzana Fort on 10th. Five with Greenfinches at Eilat North Fields on 14th.

Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus
Two at K33 on 12th (RB), and 1-2 at the Argaman K46 site on 12th.

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia
One at Hermon on 13th (JK & BA).

Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra
Common in large (50+ birds) flocks in the NW Negev (10th) and in the Jordan Valley northwards to Hula (12th & 13th).

Mammals

This is just a brief summary of the sites where we saw mammals, and their relative abundance.

Dorcas Gazelle Gazella dorcas
Common: Eilat, K46, Amram's Pillars.

Syrian Hyrax Procavia syriaca
Ein Gedi (1), Nahal Hever (large group).

Nubian Ibex Capra ibex nubiana
Several on Mount Yoash from road.

Golden Jackal Canis aureus
One in northern Hula.

(Egyptian Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon
One possible in headlights at Ein Gedi.)

Sand Fox Vulpes rueppelli
Several in headlights near Eilat.

European Otter Lutra lutra
Bet She'an (1), Hula (common).

Richard Bradbury, Jon King, Bea Arroyo & Peter Colston

 


For further information please email Richard Bradbury now